EP1618453B1 - Methods and system for secure network-based distribution of content - Google Patents

Methods and system for secure network-based distribution of content Download PDF

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Publication number
EP1618453B1
EP1618453B1 EP04750679A EP04750679A EP1618453B1 EP 1618453 B1 EP1618453 B1 EP 1618453B1 EP 04750679 A EP04750679 A EP 04750679A EP 04750679 A EP04750679 A EP 04750679A EP 1618453 B1 EP1618453 B1 EP 1618453B1
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EP
European Patent Office
Prior art keywords
user
key
media
media file
machine
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Active
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EP04750679A
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German (de)
French (fr)
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EP1618453A1 (en
Inventor
Thomas Dowdy
Dave Heller
Jeffrey L. Robbin
Guy L. Tribble
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Apple Inc
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Apple Inc
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Priority to US42370003A priority Critical
Application filed by Apple Inc filed Critical Apple Inc
Priority to PCT/US2004/012848 priority patent/WO2004097609A1/en
Publication of EP1618453A1 publication Critical patent/EP1618453A1/en
Application granted granted Critical
Publication of EP1618453B1 publication Critical patent/EP1618453B1/en
Application status is Active legal-status Critical
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F21/00Security arrangements for protecting computers, components thereof, programs or data against unauthorised activity
    • G06F21/10Protecting distributed programs or content, e.g. vending or licensing of copyrighted material
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06FELECTRIC DIGITAL DATA PROCESSING
    • G06F2221/00Indexing scheme relating to security arrangements for protecting computers, components thereof, programs or data against unauthorised activity
    • G06F2221/07Indexing scheme relating to G06F21/10, protecting distributed programs or content
    • G06F2221/0702Binding
    • G06F2221/0704Device

Abstract

A method and system for network-based distribution of content are disclosed. The distribution of content is not only secure but also controlled. The security restricts access to content within media files during downloads as well as while stored at a server or client. In one embodiment, each media file is encrypted with a different, randomly generated key. The control over the distribution of the media file can serve to limit the subsequent distribution of media files from clients to other clients. In another embodiment, the control can permit media files to be shared on a limited number of different clients affiliated with the same user. The clients can vary with application but generally are computing devices that have memory storage. Often, the clients are personal computers or other computing devices that are capable of storing and presenting content to their users.

Description

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION Field of the Invention
  • The present invention relates to content distribution and, more particularly, to content distribution in a client-server environment.
  • Description of the Related Art
  • In recent years music delivery or distribution over the Internet has become popular. Due to the advances in efficient file formats, such as MP3 and MPEG4, the size of media files have become small enough to make their download via the Internet practical. Also, technological advances have led to higher-speed Internet connections and lower cost of memory. The combination of these advances make downloading media files, such as for music and videos, manageable and not too time consuming.
  • One popular approach to music distribution is mp3.com which uses a centralized server for storage of the numerous songs that are available for download. Another popular approach to music distribution was Napster in which peer-to-peer sharing was utilized. With peer-to-peer sharing, the numerous songs reside on the user machines of the many users, not on a centralized server.
  • These on-line approaches to music distribution were associated with wide-scale copyright infractions. The music industry was particularly concerned over the popularity of these on-line music distribution websites and the associated unauthorized copying and sharing of media files. In an effort to protect its copyrights and royalty revenue for artists, the music industry undertook legal actions to thwart these popular on-line music distribution websites.
  • Thus, there is a need for improved approaches to on-line content distribution that provides users the ease and convenience of downloading media files, while at the same time provides a secured and controlled environment to protect copyright holders' rights to the content contained within the media files.
  • WO 00/31744 describes a copy management system for controlling the number of copies of audio data that can be made using a memory card. Audio data encrypted using the public key of a public/private key pair of a copying unit can be downloaded from a network source of audio data to a copying unit. The audio data can then be decrypted using the private key of the copying unit. The audio data can then be encrypted using a session key which can be either an encryption key of a randomly generated encryption key/decryption key pair, an encryption key of a list of stored encryption ley/decryption key pairs or a randomly generated single encrypt/decrypt key. Then the decryption key is encrypted using a registration code for a player device on which it is intended to use the audio data. The copying unit controls the number of copies of the audio data by only allowing a particular registration code to be stored once in the copying unit so that only one copy of the audio data is made for each registration code stored in the copying unit.
  • A file including the audio data encrypted using the session encryption key, the session decryption key encrypted using the registration code and the registration code is stored in the memory card. When the memory card is transferred to the player device, the player device uses the registration code to look up a private key of the player, and the private key of the player is then used to decrypt the session decryption key and then the session decryption key is used to decrypt the audio data. Hence, the player registration code is used to determine the private key of the player, which is stored securely in nonvolatile memory on the player only, and by transferring and storing only once the registration codes of those player devices entitled to play the audio data on the copying unit, the copying unit can enforce copy control so that only one copy of the audio data is made for each player and only the player with the corresponding registration code can decrypt and use the audio data.
  • US 2002/0002468 describes a method and system for distributing and selling electronic media content over a computer network. A content hosting site stores content for purchase which has been encrypted using a symmetric key, The symmetric key is encrypted using the public key of a clearing house which provides certification services. The encrypted public key and usage conditions for the content are provided to an electronic digital content store. An end user can purchase the content from the digital content store and on completion of the electronic transaction, a unique transaction ID is generated and encrypted using the public key of the clearing house and transmitted to the end user. The encrypted symmetric key and usage conditions are also forwarded to the end user. The end user application forwards the encrypted symmetric key, transaction ID, and application ID and the usage conditions to the clearing house which verifies the integrity of the received data and also verifies the usage conditions, transaction ID and application ID. If so, then the symmetric key is decrypted by the clearing house using its private key and then encrypted using the public key of the end user, and the encrypted symmetric key is then returned to the end user together with the transaction ID. The encrypted content is then downloaded from the content hosting site to the end user machine. The end user machine uses its private key to decrypt the Symmetric key and then uses the Symmetric key to decrypt the content. The end user application scrambles the content before storing it in the end user device. A scrambling key is generated for each content item and the scrambling key is encrypted and hidden in the end user device.
  • WO 01/46786 describes a system and method for distributing media data in which the media data can be user-bound using an electronic passport mechanism. The user-bound passport binds the data to a particular user, and can be transported to any computer system within which the user would like to play back the content. An authentication system has access to a database of content and also a certificate database and can generate user-bound passports using a private/public key pair for each registered player. The content is symmetrically encrypted using a master key. The master key is encrypted using a public key of the player to generate what is called the media key. A user supplied password is used to encrypt a clear registration key to provide an encrypted registration key. The clear registration key is used to encrypt the private key of the player. And the user-bound passport is generated including the encrypted registration key and the encrypted private key.
  • When a user selects an item of content to purchase, then the player provides a certificate inside its passport to the authentication server. A serial number for the certificate is included in the selected content and identifies to which passport the content is bound. The content encrypted by the master key is then transmitted to the player and the player determines if a passport is present. If a passport is present, then the user enters their password. The user password is then used to decrypt the encrypted registration key in the passport. The registration key is then used to decrypt the encrypted private key of the player. The private key of the player is then used to decrypt the media key to provide the master key. The master key is then used to decrypt the media content.
  • SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
  • Broadly speaking, the invention relates to network-based distribution of content. The distribution of content is not only secure but also controlled. The security restricts access to content within media files during downloads as well as while stored at a server or client. Each media file is encrypted with a different, randomly generated key. The control over the distribution of the media file can serve to limit the subsequent distribution of media files from clients to other clients. The clients can vary with application but generally are computing devices that have memory storage. Often, the clients are personal computers or other computing devices that are capable of storing and presenting content to their users.
  • The invention can be implemented in numerous ways including, as a method, system, device, apparatus, or computer readable medium. Several embodiments of the invention are discussed below.
  • According to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a method for acquiring a media file for usage at a local machine from a central server machine via a data network, the central server machine having user accounts for users of the system and each user account having at least one user key assigned thereto, the central server storing user keys for each of the users of the system, the central server being coupled to media storage which stores a plurality of media files each encrypted with a substantially random download key corresponding to that particular media file, and said method comprising: identifying a media file from the plurality of available media files for purchase from the central server machine, each of the media files having at least media content data; purchasing access to the identified media file through online interaction of the local machine with the central server machine via the data network; receiving at the local machine a download key that corresponds to the identified media file from the central server machine; downloading the identified media file in its encrypted form to the local machine; decrypting the identified media file to its unencrypted form using the download key; downloading a user key from the central server machine to the local machine, the user key being associated with a user of the local machine, and the user key being assigned to the user account for the user of the local machine; generating a content key that is substantially random or pseudo-random; encrypting the media content data of the identified media file with the content key; encrypting the content key with the user key to produce an encrypted content key; modifying the identified media file to further include a user key reference and the encrypted content key, the user key reference allowing the local machine to locate the user key; storing the user key in local storage of the local machine; and storing the modified media file to the local machine.
  • According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a computer readable medium including at least computer program code for acquiring a media file for usage at a local machine from a central server machine via a data network, the central server machine having user accounts for users of the system and each user account having at least one user key assigned thereto, the central server storing user keys for each of the users of the system, and the central server being coupled to media storage which stores a plurality of media files each encrypted with a substantially random download key corresponding to that particular media file, said computer readable medium comprising: computer program code for receiving a particular media file at the local machine from the server machine, the particular media file having at least media content data and having been purchased by online interaction of the local machine with the central server machine over the data network; computer program code for decrypting the particular media file to its unencrypted form using a download key corresponding to the particular media file received at the local machine from the central server machine; computer program code for downloading a user key from the central server machine to the local machine, the user key being associated with a user of the local machine, and the user key being assigned to the user account for the user of the local machine; computer program code for generating a content key that is substantially random or pseudo-random; computer program code for encrypting the media content data of the particular media file with the content key; computer program code for encrypting the content key with the user key to produce an encrypted content key; computer program code for modifying the particular media file to further include a user key reference and the encrypted content key, the user key reference allowing the local machine to locate the user key; computer program code for storing the user key in local storage of the local machine; and computer program code for storing the modified media file to the local machine.
  • According to a further aspect of the invention, there is provided a media distribution system comprising a central server machine in communication via a data network with a plurality of local machines, each having a user, by which a media file can be acquired for usage at a user machine from the central server machine via the data network, the central server machine having user accounts for authorized users of the system and each user account having at least one user key assigned thereto and the central server machine storing user keys for each of the users of the system, the central server machine being coupled to media storage which stores a plurality of media files each encrypted with a substantially random download key corresponding to that particular media file, wherein the system can operate to: identify a media file from the plurality of available media files for purchase from the central server machine, each of the media files having at least media content data; purchase access to the identified media file through online interaction of a local machine with the central server machine via the data network; receive at the local machine a download key that corresponds to the identified media file from the central server machine; download the identified media file in its encrypted form to the local machine; decrypt the identified media file to its unencrypted form using the download key; download a user key from the central server machine to the local machine, the user key being associated with a user of the user machine, and the user key being assigned to the user account for the user; generate a content key that is substantially random or pseudo-random; encrypt the media content data of the identified media file with the content key; encrypt the content key with the user key to produce an encrypted content key; modify the identified media file to further include a user key reference and the encrypted content key, the user key reference allowing the local machine to locate the user key; store the user key in local storage of the local machine; and store the modified media file to the user machine.
  • Other aspects and advantages of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings which illustrate, by way of example, the principles of the invention.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The invention will be readily understood by the following detailed description in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, wherein like reference numerals designate like structural elements, and in which:
    • FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a media distribution system according to one embodiment of the invention.
    • FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a media server according to one embodiment of the invention.
    • FIG. 3 is a flow diagram of media storage processing.
    • FIGs. 4A and 4B are flow diagrams of media purchase and download processing according to one embodiment of the invention.
    • FIGs. 5A and 5B are flow diagrams of media purchase and download processing according to another method.
    • FIGs. 6A and 6B are flow diagrams of media purchase and download processing according to still another method.
    • FIG. 7 is a flow diagram of playback processing according to one embodiment of the invention.
    DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION
  • The invention pertains to network-based distribution of content. The distribution of content is not only secure but also controlled. The security restricts access to content within media files during downloads as well as while stored at a server or client. Each media file is encrypted with a different, randomly generated key. The control over the distribution of the media file can serve to limit the subsequent distribution of media files from clients to other clients. The clients can vary with application but generally are computing devices that have memory storage. Often, the clients are personal computers or other computing devices that are capable of storing and presenting content to their users.
  • The invention pertains to a method and system for controlled distribution of content in a client-server environment. The controlled distribution uses encryption and user accounts to not only restrict unauthorized access to the content but also to limit usage rights to the content by authorized users.
  • The content can, for example, be audio, video, or image data. The content can also be referred to as media content or media (when referring to audio, video, or image data). The content is typically contained in a file known as a media file. Such media files have a digital form and are stored on a data storage medium. For example, the data storage medium can pertain to a compact disc, a magnetic storage device, a semiconductor memory device, an optical storage device, etc.
  • An embodiments of the invention is discussed below with reference to FIGs. 1 - 4 and 7. However, those skilled in the art will readily appreciate that the detailed description given herein with respect to these figures is for explanatory purposes as the invention extends beyond these limited embodiments.
  • FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a media distribution system 100 according to one embodiment of the invention. The media distribution system 100 includes a media server 102. The media server 102 stores, manages and downloads media files. The media files are provided to the media server 102 by a local media source 104 or a remote media source 106. The local media source 104 can be in the form of a compact disc (CD), a magnetic storage device, a digital versatile disk (DVD), or a disk drive. Typically, the local media source 104 is a removable medium that can be provided to a media company and delivered to the media server 102 at a hosting location. The remote media source 106 can pertain to a computing device that couples to the media server 102 through a data network 108, such as the Internet. The remote media source 106 can transmit or stream media files to the media server 102 through the data network 108. The media files that are received at the media server 102 from the media sources 104,106 can be processed and then stored to a media storage 110. The processing of the media files at the media server 102 can secure the files using encryption and can also prepare the media files for download to prospective users (i.e., purchasers).
  • The media distribution system 100 allows users of client machines 112 and 114 to access the media server 102 via the data network (Internet) 108. Accordingly, users of the client machines 112 and 114 are able to interact with the media server 102. Through such interaction, users of the client machines 112 and 114 are able to browse the media files stored in the media storage 110, select media files for purchase, download the purchased media files, and subsequently play the purchased media files at their respective client machines 112 and 114. The media distribution system 100 operates to impose limitations on access to the media files through encryption processes. The media distribution system 100 also causes usage restrictions to be imposed on the purchased media files that have been downloaded.
  • The client machines 112 and 114 are computing devices, either general-purpose or special purpose. In recent times, computing devices have become smaller and more compact. The computing devices can also be designed for primarily stationary or portable usage. One type of portable computing device that the invention is suitable for use with are known as handheld computing devices. Handheld computing devices are sometimes more specialized computing devices than are general-purpose personal computers. For example, one type of handheld computing device is a portable (or personal) media player. Media players can also be referred to as consumer electronics products. A media player plays media, such as MP3 files, MPEG files, Advanced Audio Coding (AAC) files, compact discs or DVDs, for the benefit of a user. In one embodiment, the media player can utilize a disk drive to provide mass storage of media content that is played by the media player.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram of a media server 200 according to one embodiment of the invention. The media server 200 is, for example, suitable for use as the media server 102 illustrated in FIG. 1. In this regard, the media server 200 couples to a network (e.g., the data network 108) and a media storage (e.g., the media storage 110).
  • The media server 200 includes a media storage manager 202, a media purchase manager 204, a media download manager 206, and user accounts 208. The media storage manager 202 operates to receive incoming media files, to process the media files for eventual download, and to store the files to the media storage. The media purchase manager 204 assists users of client machines (e.g., the client machines 112 and 114 shown in FIG. 1) to purchase one or more media files through on-line interaction with the media server 200. Typically, the media purchase manager 204 would assist a user in completing an electronic commerce transaction to enable the user to purchase the right to receive and utilize one or more media files. The media download manager 206 facilitates the download of media files that have been purchased to the appropriate client machines of the users that have purchased the media files. The user accounts 208 store user information pertaining to users of the system. In one embodiment, the user information includes a set of user keys associated with each of the users. The user keys are used by the media server 200 when encrypting media files for particular users that have purchased access rights thereto. Through management of the user keys for a user, the media server 200 can limit the number or type of client machine that is able to receive or make use of the media file.
  • FIG. 3 is a flow diagram of media storage processing 300 according to one embodiment of the invention. The media storage processing 300 is, for example, performed by the media server 102 illustrated in FIG. 1 or the media storage manager 202 illustrated in FIG. 2.
  • The media storage processing 300 initially receives 302 a media file at the media server. The media file is constructed such that it includes media data and may further include metadata. The metadata describes characteristics of the data. For example, the metadata can indicate characteristics, such as, name, artist, copyright information, title, etc. The metadata of the media file is optionally encrypted 304, such as with a global key. In one embodiment, the global key is used to encrypt the metadata for all the media files at the media server. In another embodiment, if desired, different global keys can be used with different media servers. Typically, the metadata is not that sensitive so the use of a common global key to encrypt such is adequate. However, if stronger encryption is desired, then more specialized keys can be used to increase the level of security. In another embodiment, the metadata is not encrypted.
  • A download key is also generated 306 for the media file. The download key is a substantially random secret key that is generated for each media file to be stored. Next, the media file is encrypted 308 with the download key. Here, the media file is encrypted 308 with the download key corresponding to that particular media file. At this point, the media file (encrypted media file) is secured through encryption and ready for download to potential users. After the media file is encrypted 308, the encrypted media file is stored 310 to a central media storage. In one embodiment, the central media storage is the media storage 110 of FIG. 1. Following the operation 310, the media storage processing 300 is complete and ends.
  • Once stored in the central media storage, the encrypted media file can be purchased and transmitted to the purchaser in its encrypted format to prevent unauthorized access to the media file. Hence, by storing the encrypted media files to the central media storage, the media files are stored in an encrypted manner and are ready to be downloaded with little or no further processing. Consequently, the server is able to be more efficient and handle greater demands for downloading of media files.
  • FIGs. 4A and 4B are flow diagrams of media purchase and download processing 400 according to one embodiment of the invention. The media purchase and download processing 400 is, for example, performed by the media server 102 illustrated in FIG. 1 or by the media purchase manager 204 and the media download manager 206 of the media server 200 illustrated in FIG. 2.
  • The media purchase and download processing 400 initially permits a user to browse 402 media files that are available for purchase. Here, the user is able to browse the media files to assist the user in determining whether to purchase one or more of the media files. Often the user is able to view at least portions of the metadata for the media files, view text associated with the media files, and/or sample audio, graphics or video pertaining to the media files.
  • After the browsing 402, a user selects 404 a media file for purchase. Then, the user purchases 406 the media file and receives an associated download key. The user may also receive a global key when a media file is purchased. Here, the purchase of the media file can be an electronic commerce transaction in which the user pays for the access to the media file through any of a variety of financial transfer means, such as credit card, debit card, or payment assistance (e.g., PayPal, Neteller, pre-paid ATM, etc.).
  • Next, the media file is downloaded 408 to the user. In one embodiment, the download 408 of the media file can be performed by streaming the media file through the data network to the user, namely, to the user's client machine. Here, the downloading 408 of the media file is efficient because the manner in which the media file is stored facilitates its immediate download without the need for processing-intensive conversion.
  • Once the media file is downloaded 408, the media file is then decrypted 410 at the user's local machine using the download key. Further, at this point, if the metadata of the media file itself is encrypted, the metadata can also be decrypted using the global key which has previously been provided to the user who has purchased the access rights to the media file.
  • Following the purchase 406 of the media item, user keys associated with the user are retrieved 412. One of the user keys is selected 414. The user keys can be rotated (e.g., cycled) for improved security. In one embodiment, the number of different client machines that can be authorized can be limited, thereby restricting the ability of the user to utilize the downloaded media file on more than the predetermined limited number of client machines.
  • After the user has selected 414 one of the user keys, a random content key is generated 416. The random content key is a key that is substantially randomly generated or pseudo-randomly generated. Then, the media portion of the media file is encrypted 418 with the random content key. The random content key is then itself encrypted 420 with the selected user key.
  • Next, the media file is modified 422 to further include a user key reference and the encrypted random content key. Optionally, the media file could be further modified to include information identifying the user who purchased access rights to the media file. For example, the media file could be modified to include user- identifying information by storing an encrypted version of the global key (associated with the user that purchased the access rights) into the media file. Optionally, the media portion of the media file may be modified by digitally watermarking it with user-identifiable information.
  • In order to utilize the media file on the client machine, the appropriate user key will be needed, and the user key reference allows the user key to be located (should it be present). In one embodiment, if the user key is present, the user key is stored in a local data storage of the user's client machine. Likewise, the modified media file is stored 424 to the local data storage. For example, the local data storage can be a disk drive, random-access memory, a removable media, etc. Also, in one embodiment, a database can be used to manage the storage of the modified media files in the local data storage. Following the operation 424, the media purchase and download processing 400 is complete and ends.
  • The media file, whether encrypted or not, can have a file format that varies. For example, one suitable file format is a MPEG4 format. Other-suitable formats include QuickTime movies, MPEG-1 format and MPEG-2 format,
  • FIGs. 5A and 5B are flow diagrams of media purchase and download processing 500 according to another example method. The media purchase and download processing 500 is, for example, performed by the media server 102 illustrated in FIG. 1 or by the media purchase manager 204 and the media download manager 206 of the media server 200 illustrated in FIG. 2.
  • The media purchase and download processing 500 initially permits a user to browse 502 media files that are available for purchase. Here, the user is able to browse the media files to assist the user in determining whether to purchase one or more of the media files. Often the user is able to view at least portions of the metadata for the media files, view text associated with the media files, and/or sample audio, graphics or video pertaining to the media files.
  • After the browsing 502, a user selects 504 a media file for purchase. Then, the user purchases 506 the media file and receives an associated download key. The user may also receive a global key when a media file is purchased. Here, the purchase of the media file can be an electronic commerce transaction in which the user pays for the access to the media file through any of a variety of financial transfer means, such as credit card, debit card, or payment assistance (e.g., PayPal, Neteller, pre-paid ATM, etc.).
  • Next, the media file is downloaded 508 to the user. In one embodiment, the download 508 of the media file can be performed by streaming the media file through the data network to the user, namely, to the user's client machine. Here, the downloading 508 of the media file is efficient because the manner in which the media file is stored facilitates its immediate download without the need for processing-intensive conversion.
  • Following the purchase 506 of the media item, user keys associated with the user are retrieved 510. Then, one of the user keys is selected 512. The user keys can be rotated (e.g., cycled) for improved security. In one embodiment, the number of different client machines that can be authorized can be limited, thereby restricting the ability of the user to utilize the downloaded media file on more than the predetermined limited number of client machines.
  • After the user has selected 512 one of the user keys, a random content key is generated 514. The random content key is a key that is substantially randomly generated or pseudo-randomly generated. Then, the media portion of the media file is transcrypted.516 using the download key and the random content key. The random content key is then itself encrypted 518 with the selected user key.
  • Next, the media file is modified 520 to further include a user key reference and the encrypted random content key. Optionally, the media file could be further modified to include information identifying the user who purchased access rights to the media file. For example, the media file could be modified to include user-identifying information by storing an encrypted version of the global key (associated with the user that purchased the access rights) into the media file.
  • In order to utilize the media file on the client machine, the appropriate user key will be needed, and the user key reference allows the user key to be located (should it be present). In one embodiment, if the user key is present, the user key is stored in a local data storage of the user's client machine. Likewise, the modified media file is stored 522 to the local data storage. For example, the local data storage can be a disk drive, random-access memory, a removable media, etc. Also, in one embodiment, a database can be used to manage the storage of the modified media files in the local data storage. Following the operation 522, the media purchase and download processing 500 is complete and ends.
  • FIGs. 6A and 6B are flow diagrams of media purchase and download processing 600 according to still another example method. The media purchase and download processing 600 is, for example, performed by the media server 102 illustrated in FIG. 1 or by the media purchase manager 204 and the media download manager 206 of the media server 200 illustrated in FIG. 2.
  • The media purchase and download processing 600 initially permits a user to browse 602 media files that are available for purchase. Here, the user is able to browse the media files to assist the user in determining whether to purchase one or more of the media files. Often the user is able to view at least portions of the metadata for the media files, view text associated with the media files, and/or sample audio, graphics or video pertaining to the media files.
  • After the browsing 602, a user selects 604 a media file for purchase. Then, the user purchases 606 the media file. Here, the purchase of the media file can be an electronic commerce transaction in which the user pays for the access to the media file through any of a variety of financial transfer means, such as credit card, debit card, or payment assistance (e.g., PayPal, Neteller, pre-paid ATM, etc.).
  • Following the purchase 606 of the media item, user keys associated with the user are retrieved 608. Then, one of the user keys is selected 610. The user keys can be rotated (e. g. , cycled) for improved security. In one embodiment, the number of different client machines that can be authorized can be limited, thereby restricting the ability of the user to utilize the downloaded media file on more than the predetermined limited number of client machines.
  • After the user has selected 610 one of the user keys, a random content key is generated 612. The random content key is a key that is substantially randomly generated or pseudo-randomly generated. Then, the media portion of the media file is encrypted 614 with the random content key. The random content key is then itself encrypted 616 with the selected user key.
  • Next, the media file is modified 618 to further include a user key reference and the encrypted random content key. Optionally, the media file could be further modified to include information identifying the user who purchased access rights to the media file. For example, the media file could be modified to include user-identifying information by storing an encrypted version of the global key (associated with the user that purchased the access rights) into the media file. Optionally, the media portion of the media file may be modified by digitally watermarking it with user-identifiable information.
  • The media file is then downloaded 620 to the user. In one embodiment, the download 620 of the media file can be performed by streaming the media file through the data network to the user, namely, to the user's client machine.
  • In order to utilize the media file on the client machine, the appropriate user key is needed, and the user key reference allows the user key to be located (should it be present). In one embodiment, if the user key is present, the user key is stored in a local data storage of the user's client machine. Likewise, the modified media file is stored 622 to the local data storage. For example, the local data storage can be a disk drive, random-access memory, a removable media, etc. Also, in one embodiment, a database can be used to manage the storage of the modified media files in the local data storage. Following the operation 622, the media purchase and download processing 600 is complete and ends.
  • FIG. 7 is a flow diagram of playback processing 700 according to one embodiment of the invention. The playback processing 700 is performed at a client machine (user machine), such as the client machine 112 or the client machine 114 illustrated in FIG. 1. The client machines can be desktop computers, notebook computers, handheld computers, personal digital assistants, media players, and various other devices.
  • The playback processing 700 allows a user of a client machine to browse 702 media files in the local data storage for playback. In other words, the media files that are available for playback can be searched, scanned or reviewed (e.g., previewed) by the user. Typically, the user browses through the media files using the metadata for the media files or perhaps samples of the media files. Next, a media file to be played is selected 704. Then, a user key reference is obtained 706 from the selected media file. As previously noted, the media files that are stored to the local media storage have a user key reference contained within the media files. Hence, the user key reference can be obtained 706 from the selected media file. A user key is then located 708 in the client machine (e.g., local data storage) based on the user key reference that was obtained 706 from the selected media file.
  • Next, a decision 710 determines whether the user key was found. When the decision 710 determines that the user key is not able to be found, then the user has not configured the client machine to be suitable for accessing media files; hence, a user account must be setup 712 with the media server. This requires that the user interact with the media server via the client machine to setup a user account specific to the client machine. Following the setup 712 of the user account, the playback processing 700 returns to repeat the operation 708 and subsequent operations so that the user key can be located.
  • On the other hand, when the decision 710 determines that the user key has been found, an encrypted random content key is obtained 714 from the selected media file. Again, the nature of the selected media file is such that it contains the encrypted random content key. Then, the encrypted random content key is decrypted 716 with the user key. The random content key that results from the decrypting 716 can then be used to decrypt 718 the encrypted media portion of the media file. At this point, the media portion of the media file is in the "clear." Finally, the media portion of the media file is played 720 at the client machine. Following the operation 720, the playback processing 700 is complete and ends.
  • The various aspects, features, embodiments or implementations of the invention described above can be used alone or in various combinations.
  • The media files can pertain to audio items (e.g., audio files or songs, such as for music), video items (e.g., video files or movies), or image items (e.g., photos).
  • The invention is preferably implemented by software, but can also be implemented in hardware or a combination of hardware and software. The invention can also be embodied as computer readable code on a computer readable medium. The computer readable medium is any data storage device that can store data which can thereafter be read by a computer system. Examples of the computer readable medium include read-only memory, random-access memory, CD-ROMs, DVDs, magnetic tape, optical data storage devices, and carrier waves. The computer readable medium can also be distributed over network-coupled computer systems so that the computer readable code is stored and executed in a distributed fashion.
  • The advantages of the invention are numerous. Different embodiments or implementations may, but need not, yield one or more of the following advantages. One advantage of the invention is that encryption and user accounts are used to provide controlled distribution of content. The controlled distribution can not only restrict unauthorized access to the content but also limit usage rights to the content by authorized users. Another advantage of the invention is that media file-specific encryption can be utilized at a server-side, while user-specific encryption can be used at a client-side. Another advantage of the invention is that media files can be commonly encrypted at the server-side for storage and download to any user that has been authorized (e.g., by purchasing such rights). Another advantage of the invention is that media files can be re-encrypted at a client-side using a random criteria so that all media files at the client-side are encrypted with a different key. Still another advantage of the invention is that, if desired, purchased media files can have restricted usage rights such that the content within the media files can only be played on a limited number of clients (user machines).
  • The many features and advantages of the present invention are apparent from the written description and, thus, it is intended by the appended claims to cover all such features and advantages of the invention. Further, since numerous modifications and changes will readily occur to those skilled in the art, the invention should not be limited to the exact construction and operation as illustrated and described. Hence, all suitable modifications and equivalents may be resorted to as falling within the scope of the invention.

Claims (17)

  1. A method (400) for acquiring a media file for usage at a local machine (112, 114) from a central server machine (102, 200) via a data network (108), the central server machine having user accounts for users of the system and each user account having at least one user key assigned thereto, the central server storing user keys for each of the users of the system, the central server being coupled to media storage (110) which stores a plurality of media files each encrypted with a substantially random download key corresponding to that particular media file and said method comprising:
    identifying (404) a media file from the plurality of available media files for purchase from the central server machine, each of the media files having at least media content data;
    purchasing (406) access to the identified media file through online interaction of the local machine with the central server machine (102, 200) via the data network;
    receiving at the local machine (406) a download key that corresponds to the identified media file from the central server machine;
    downloading (408) the identified media file in its encrypted form to the local machine;
    decrypting (410) the identified media file to its unencrypted form using the download key;
    downloading (414) a user key from the central server machine to the local machine, the user key being associated with a user of the local machine, and the user key being assigned to the user account for the user of the local machine;
    generating (416) a content key that is substantially random or pseudo-random;
    encrypting (418) the media content data of the identified media file with the content key;
    encrypting (420) the content key with the user key to produce an encrypted content key;
    modifying (422) the identified media file to further include a user key reference and the encrypted content key, the user key reference allowing the local machine to locate the user key;
    storing the user key in local storage of the local machine; and
    storing (424) the modified media file to the local machine.
  2. A method as recited in claim 1, wherein a plurality of media files are stored on the central server machine, each of the media files having at least metadata and media content data, the metadata describing characteristics of the associated media item.
  3. A method as recited in claim 2, wherein said identifying (a) comprises:
    (a1) browsing (402) the media files stored on the server machine through use of the metadata for the media files; and
    (a2) identifying one of the media files to be the identified media file.
  4. A method as recited in claim 3, wherein said identifying (404) of the one of the media files is performed by a user.
  5. A method as recited in claim 1, wherein said storing (424) operates to store the modified media file to a local storage associated with the local machine (112, 114).
  6. A method as recited in claim 5, wherein the local storage is a data storage device within the local machine (112, 114).
  7. A method as recited in claim 1, wherein the local machine (112, 114) connects to the central server machine (102) over the Internet.
  8. A method as recited in claim 2, further comprising:
    downloading the metadata for the identified media file from the central server machine to the local machine; and
    storing the metadata in local storage of the local machine.
  9. A method as recited in claim 8, wherein the metadata is encrypted using a global key for downloading.
  10. A method as recited in claim 1, further comprising:
    modifying the identified media file to further include information identifying the user who purchased access to the identified media file,
  11. A method as claimed in claim 1, wherein each user account has a set of user keys assigned thereto, and further comprising selecting a user key from the set of user keys for the user account of the user of the local machine.
  12. A computer readable medium including at least computer program code for acquiring a media file for usage at a local machine from a central server machine via a data network, the central server machine having user accounts for users of the system and each user account having at least one user key assigned thereto, the central server storing user keys for each of the users of the system, and the central server being coupled to media storage which stores a plurality of media files each encrypted with a substantially random download key corresponding to that particular media file, said computer readable medium comprising:
    computer program code for receiving a particular media file at the local machine from the server machine, the particular media file having at least media content data and having been purchased by online interaction of the local machine with the central server machine over the data network;
    computer program code for decrypting the particular media file to its unencrypted form using a download key corresponding to the particular media file received at the local machine from the central server machine;
    computer program code for downloading a user key from the central server machine to the local machine, the user key being associated with a user of the local machine, and the user key being assigned to the user account for the user of the local machine;
    computer program code for generating a content key that is substantially random or pseudo-random;
    computer program code for encrypting the media content data of the particular media file with the content key;
    computer program code for encrypting the content key with the user key to produce an encrypted content key;
    computer program code for modifying the particular media file to further include a user key reference and the encrypted content key, the user key reference allowing the local machine to locate the user key;
    computer program code for storing the user key in local storage of the local machine; and
    computer program code for storing the modified media file to the local machine.
  13. A media distribution system (100) comprising a central server machine (102) in communication via a data network (108) with a plurality of local machines, each having a user, by which a media file can be acquired for usage at a user machine (112,114) from the central server machine (102, 200) via the data network (108), the central server machine having user accounts for authorized users of the system and each user account having at least one user key assigned thereto and the central server machine storing user keys for each of the users of the system, the central server machine being coupled to media storage (110) which stores a plurality of media files each encrypted with a substantially random download key corresponding to that particular media file, wherein the system can operate to:
    identify (404) a media file from the plurality of available media files for purchase from the central server machine, each of the media files having at least media content data;
    purchase (406) access to the identified media file through online interaction of a local machine with the central server machine via the data network;
    receive at the local machine (406) a download key that corresponds to the identified media file from the central server machine;
    download (408) the identified media file in its encrypted form to the local machine;
    decrypt (410) the identified media file to its unencrypted form using the download key;
    download (414) a user key from the central server machine to the local machine, the user key being associated with a user of the user machine, and the user key being assigned to the user account for the user;
    generate (416) a content key that is substantially random or pseudo-random;
    encrypt (418) the media content data of the identified media file with the content key;
    encrypt (420) the content key with the user key to produce an encrypted content key;
    modify (422) the identified media file to further include a user key reference and the encrypted content key, the user key reference allowing the local machine to locate the user key;
    store the user key in local storage of the local machine; and store (424) the modified media file to the user machine.
  14. A media distribution system (100) as recited in claim 15, wherein said local machine can further operate to subsequently present the media file at said user machine.
  15. A media distribution system (100) as recited in claim 13, wherein, when presenting the media file, said local machine can operate to:
    obtain a user key based on the user key reference within the identified media file, to obtain the encrypted content key from the identified media file;
    decrypt the encrypted content key using the user key to obtain the content key;
    decrypt the encrypted media content data of the identified media file with the content key; and
    present the media content data of the identified media file.
  16. A media distribution system (100) as recited in claim 15, wherein the content within the media file pertains to at least one of music, photos or videos.
  17. A media distribution system as recited in claim 15, wherein each of the media files have at least the media content data and metadata, the metadata describing characteristics of the associated media item.
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